A letter for Beginners...
by James Gross
After receiving MANY letters regarding genealogy
inquiries, I feel compelled to give some helpful suggestions...
If you are going to do genealogy, Jewish or otherwise, JOIN a genealogy
society! Those of us who supposedly know things, picked them up by reading
and networking. After you join that genealogy society, borrow and read
all the back issue newsletters that you can get your hands on. There are
Jewish genealogy societies across the nation and they all have newsletters.
As this is a geographically oriented hobby, it is helpful to learn what
others have done based on where they live. Phila genealogy for a person in
Los Angles is much different than for someone like me who lives outside of
With regards to networking, all sources don't come from books. Some of the
best info is patiently residing in the head of the fellow or gal sitting next
to you at your genealogy meeting. If you don't open your mouth and ask a
question, you'll NEVER learn anything. Whats that? You don't belong to a
genealogy society or haven't attended a meeting in months? Well, I suggest
you try and adjust your schedule and attend a meeting.
Jewishgenis a great source to help
the beginning as well as experienced Jewish genealogist. I have found that
that membership in a local genealogy society is also of great benefit.
As I already mentioned, ones geographic location heavily influences what
sources are, and aren't, easily available. Start your own listing of helpful
genealogy colleagues and refer to them when needed. Try and do some genealogy
reading and research so you will at least have some type of grasp on what you
know, or more likely, what you don't know.
I've just added a "Beginners Help"page
for those of you are just starting out.
Also, I want to encourage everyone to be NICE and share data. Whether via
Jewishgen, local JGS, or private e-mail, the point is that everyone benefits.
Part of the impetus behind My webpage and my positive attitude towards sharing
data is the direct result of a very friendly first encounter with my local LDS
branch and a non-Jewish volunteer. I was made to feel welcomed though I wasn't
a Mormon and this unnamed person gave me 100% of their effort. So, if a non-
Jewish genealogist can help out, there is no reason why Jewish genealogists
can't help out too.
Regarding "networking", I guess I do it so often that I don't even really
give it much thought. I keep a e-mail directory and contact people I know when
I need some help with something. The term "networking", in the context of
genealogy, refers to tapping the brains of the right person. How do you know
whom to contact? Well, one of my latest challenges is a family by the name of
Lewite who came in 1921 from Peretzie,Poland, to Buffalo, NY. I took a guess
and called info looking for a Historical Society. I found one and they were
very helpful. I next found 2 Jewish funeral directors, and now have 3 Jewish
cemetaries to call. The historical society helped me via their city
directiories and even gave me a ward# for the 1925 NY state census. This will
make life easier for me when I pull the 1925 census by street address for this
family as I have an address of their son who came to meet their ship as stated
on their ship manifest. I am going to contact a woman who lives in Buffalo to
see if she can give me info on any additional Buffalo contacts. So, I used my
brain and the phone.
If you send anyone an e-mail letter, include your city & state as well as
e-mail address.Don't ask outlandish or impossible questions. Start out
with simple things. Whever someone sends you something, its a good idea to
send a "thank-you".
The day you start sending and posting inquiries with a bit MORE than
"I'm searching Greenberg from L'vov", is the day you'll start to get some
realistic responses. If you haven't even documented your immediate family,
how is anyone supposed to compare notes? National archives research is one
of the keys to finding information. If you want to compare notes, it would
be helpful if you first GET some documents. There is an aweful lot of info
sitting at the National archives, just waiting for you to find it. Your
families naturalizations, census returns and ship manifests will help propell
you to new heights of knowledge. So, start turning those microfilm viewers!
I hope this is of help... Click below to return to the main homepage.
Looking for names? check out my surnames